The crisis-hit president is facing intense pressure to resign after Brazilian media published the contents of a secret tape recording, causing political and economic turmoil.
But in an impassioned and unflinchingly defiant speech to government, Brazil’s President Michel Temer condemned the allegations that have thrown the country into an institutional crisis.
He said the recording threatened to undo the economic and social accomplishments he has achieved since taking office in September 2016, after Dilma Rousseff was impeached.
“Just as we begin this virtuous circle, abandoning the vices of the past, comes an edited, adulterated recording, widely reported, that jeopardises our achievements,” Temer said.
“If those who do not think about the future of our country believe that we will stop, they are deeply mistaken.”
Temer went on to accuse the wealthy JBS executive Joesley Batista of taking a “criminal stance” and trying to “avoid arrest”.
‘Tarnish my honour’
“He [Joesley Batista] adopted a criminal stance and, wishing to avoid arrest, set out to tarnish my honour. He has become an instrument for those who wish to lead the country into a new crisis. Worse still, the only penalty he was charged with was a derisory fine.”
The speech comes after seven JBS executives, including the billionaire Batista brothers Joesley and Wesley, entered a plea bargain with the Supreme Court in Brazil last week. The company was fined R$225 million ($67m), but all seven staff avoided jail time.
Legitimacy of recording questioned
The Batista brothers wield great financial and political influence in the country, despite numerous allegations of corruption. And as part of the plea bargain, Joesley Batista handed over the tape recording that allegedly captured Temer condoning the bribing of politician Eduardo Cunha, who was jailed this year for corruption.
When the contents of the tape were first published, many expected Brazil’s president to resign.
The unannounced late-night meeting Temer had with Batista at the Palácio do Jaburu – the official residence of the vice president – in itself seemed shady. Temer, though, said it was “normal” for heads of state to receive business leaders, politicians, engineers and doctors at the residence.
And it now seems that the integrity of the recording is in question too; Temer’s lawyers have claimed it has been edited up to 70 times and may not stand up in court as evidence.
A Supreme Court investigation into the conduct of the president is ongoing.